Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Recently I was flipping through a book called “The New York City Cab Driver’s Joke Book,” written by Jim Pietsch. It’s faithful to its title, but it also includes some anecdotes about fares the author had chauffeured around.
One particular fare worked as a bartender at the Plaza hotel. He shared a story about Jackie Gleason coming in one evening with several friends. Gleason asked the bartender what was the largest tip he had ever received. The bartender told Gleason $100.
“Well, tonight I’m going to tip you $150,” Gleason told the man.
At the end of the night, Gleason was settling his tab and he indeed tipped the bartender $150. He then asked, somewhat satisfied with his generosity, who had tipped him the $100.
“It was you, Mr. Gleason,” the bartender replied.
Gleason leaned his head back and laughed.
The moral to the story — besides that Gleason had a terrific sense of humor — is that the relationship between customer and bartender/waiter/waitress goes a long way to determining the tip.
Provide good service, and you should receive a nice tip. Lousy service, lousy tip. Of course, if you’re a rotten customer, don’t expect to be treated like royalty.
My wife and I have had some tremendous dining experiences and some harrowing ones.
A couple of years ago we were at an Olive Garden location and were seated immediately. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more.
The section in which we were seated was full. The waitress came through several times and stopped at every table except ours. She looked at us a couple of times, but still never came to us. Finally we flagged her down, and she replied, “Sorry, you’re not my table,” then walked away.
No “I’ll find your server,” just, “you’re not my table.”
A few minutes later another waitress as walking by and we stopped her and asked to speak to the manager. After hearing our complaint, the manager apologized, then assigned one of her best waitresses to us. The rest of the evening was flawless. They didn’t charge us (which we said wasn’t necessary) and we left the waitress a nice tip.
That manager — and waitress — understand customer service, and both get an A+ for resolving a problem and ensuring a repeat customer.
One restaurant we won’t be going back to any time soon is located on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga. The only service they seem to understand is serving themselves.
Our experiences there typically start off well, until dinner arrives. Then the waitress typically disappears, or goes to another table to talk to friends who have stopped in. Need a refill on your drink? Forget it.
If you flag down another waitress, or go to the bar for a refill, the waitress will high-tail it back to your table and ask if everything is alright. Then she returns to her friends, or goes to the hostess, and talks in a low voice, with occasional gestures in your direction.
Lovely, isn’t it? Clearly, customer service is not a high priority there. Fortunately, their Orchard Park location is the polar opposite.
Colleen and I have spoken to other people who have had similar experiences there, so we know it’s not us.
A few weeks ago we made our first trip to the Fieldstone restaurant. Our server was pleasant, and she cheerfully made some recommendations after we told her it was our first visit. We like the friendly servers who aren’t afraid to talk a little. This particular one was a delight. She got a nice tip.
Good customer service goes a long way. Most places understand that, and others either don’t or simply don’t care. We always make it a point to make return visits — and recommendations to friends — to the ones that strive for customer satisfaction. It’s our way of thanking them.John J. Hopkins is the managing editor for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. His columns appear on Sundays. Contact Mr. Hopkins at email@example.com.